Nothing taken for granted in a trip to Victory Lane

In 2001, after the crash that took Dale Earnhardt Sr., I was one of the masses who went in search of a new favorite driver to follow. Junior seemed a bit too cliche. Jumping over to Junior seemed a little cliche since I don't like to follow the crowd.

Months went by, and the 2001 season came to an end. Still I had no driver to call my driver. As the close of the 2002 season approached, I still watched the races but had no real connection to them, like a fan does when they have a specific driver to cheer. Then came race 31 of the season. I watched how the No. 40 qualified 5th with a substitute driver. It caught my interest, as the apparent underdog was making a go of it. When Jaime McMurray brought the No. 40 to the checkered flag, I finally said, "That's my driver! I don't know what he looks like, and I don't care. Anyone who can be put in a car as a placeholder and take the win is a driver for me." Little did I know how my comments foretold of things to come.

Then, Ganassi picked up McMurray and put him in the No. 42 with Texaco/Havoline on the hood, and I knew it was a great choice. I had always had a soft spot for Davey Allison and the Alabama gang, even though I followed Dale Sr. McMurray's all-American looks would repeatedly cause me grief with my racing friends. They would dismiss me as a typical chick picking a driver either because of the color of his car or because he was a pretty boy. Nothing irritates me more than being dismissed as frivolous. Unfortunately, even with the 2003 Rookie of the Year award and a close call for the Chase, McMurray was not going to make it any easier for me.

McMurray moved to Roush in 2006, and when the series went to Texas everything went sideways. In pre-race coverage, McMurray was shown doing his sponsor duties by serving as a designated driver for a Crown Royal program. After a few of the drives home with fans were shown, one came up where a lady - with a healthy buzz - asked the standard question: "What do you do if you have to pee?" Now, everyone knows how that issue is handled. It was a catch-22, granted, but his talk of letting loose in place led to no end of razzing by my co-workers for weeks and months to come.

I began to diversify my following of drivers in order to not have to deal with the jabs during racing debates by picking up a couple of more to cheer for, but I never turned my back on McMurray. The July race at Daytona in 2007 reaffirmed that McMurray had the goods to be a driver to cheer for with one of the best finishes in recent NASCAR memory. Though it can be frustrating to see a driver you cheer go through dry spells and several close calls with the checkered flag, when they break through, it puts a little bounce in the fan's step and starts the week on a positive note.

So, this week, I've celebrated a bit with my driver, though he couldn't identify me in a line up. Talladega may have been a disappointment from a racing point of view, but I know of one driver and his fan base, who are happy with the results from Sunday. While the media and fans lament the parade that was Dega, it is important to remember: for some, Dega gave us a reason to celebrate. I can only hope that McMurray's victory moment doesn't get crowded out by Dega bashing. Unfortunately, we all know that discontent gets far more attention than elation. What is truly important is to cherish the victory because you never if or when it might happen again.

Congratulations, Jaime McMurray, you earned it. Your loyal fans celebrate the win with you.
Nothing taken for granted in a trip to Victory Lane Nothing taken for granted in a trip to Victory Lane Reviewed by Anonymous on Thursday, November 05, 2009 Rating: 5